Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/381

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361
CASE OF MASTER ECKHART.

lofty mysticism trenched dangerously on their pantheism, and possibly they may have sought to shelter themselves behind his great name. At the general chapter of 1325 complaints had been made that in Germany members of the Order preached to the people in the vulgar tongue doctrines that might lead to error, and Gervaise, Prior of Angers, was ordered to investigate them; while, about the same time, John XXII., in concurrence with the wishes of the Order, appointed Nicholas of Strassburg, lector or teacher of the Cologne Dominicans, as his inquisitor for the province of Germany, to inquire into the faith and life of the brethren. Thus far everything had been kept within the precincts of the Order, but the archbishop was growing hot in his pursuit of the Beghards. He evidently was dissatisfied with what was on foot, and he appointed two episcopal commissioners or inquisitors to look after Master Eckhart. Nicholas of Strassburg was himself inclined to mysticism; every motive conspired to lead him to deal tenderly with the accused, and Eckhart was accordingly acquitted, in July, 1326. The episcopal inquisitors were not content with this (one of them was a Franciscan), and proceeded to take evidence against Eckhart. After six months, on January 14, 1327, they summoned Nicholas, as was their right, to communicate to them his proceedings. He came, accompanied by ten friars, not to obey the command, but to enter a solemn protest against the whole business, demanding his "Apostoli," or letters of appeal to the pope, on the ground that Dominicans were not subject to the episcopal Inquisition, and that he in especial was an inquisitor appointed by the pope with full jurisdiction. As early as 1184 Lucius III. had abolished all immunities of monastic orders in cases of heresy, but the Dominicans were of later origin, they had been strengthened with special privileges, and they claimed this exemption although they could not prove it. The episcopal inquisitors promptly answered this by commencing the same day an action against Nicholas himself, who on the morrow interjected an appeal to the Holy See. They further summoned Master Eckhart to appear before them on January 31, but on the 24th he came with numerous supporters and filed an indignant protest, in which he complained bitterly of their protracting the proceedings for the purpose of ruining his reputation, in place of pushing them to an end, as they could readily have done six months before ; besides,